American Sniper (2014)
January 22, 2015 10:03 PM - Subscribe

Based on the true story of a U.S. sniper who served in Iraq.
posted by bq (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
For certain values of "true."
posted by kewb at 5:10 AM on January 23, 2015


'Inspired by'
posted by bq at 5:11 AM on January 23, 2015


It's based on Kyle's book, which is of...dubious veracity. However, the film does do a good job cutting out the material that pretty clearly never happened in real life, so arguably it's closer to the "true story" than the source material. It certainly seems to portray post-war Kyle as more traumatized than the real Kyle was ever really willing to admit, for example.

But it also avoids presenting him as a self-aggrandizing bullshitter, the kind of guy who proudly claimed he'd shot dozens of looters in post-Katrina New Orleans or that he efficiently gunned down two would-be carjackers and then was allowed to leave the scene without incident or further investigation after the police made a phone call to the Pentagon or something like that. It certainly leaves out the material he was forced to remove from the book after a successful defamation lawsuit the demonstrated parts of his story were utterly untrue.

More broadly, it's going to be hard to separate any assessment of this movie from both the real Chris Kyle's less pleasant traits or the popular reception of his book, his public persona, and, indeed, the film itself. The film is more reflective regarding the effects of war on soldiers than its subject, but that's not really saying much.

And it never really brings the kind of historical perspective to the second Iraq war that Eastwood's two Iwo Jima films brought to the second World War, likely because of American Sniper's more limited source material and perhaps because that history is so recent and so "live" as a topic of popular debate. However well it does at the awards shows and the box office, it's not going to be remembered simply as "a good film" or "a bad film," but rather as a film of its particular political moment.
posted by kewb at 5:29 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I watched this last night and damn, it was not an enjoyable experience. I actually left the theater about ten minutes before the end of the movie because I had a feeling that it was not going to end well, and at that was before I googled it so I didn't know. I really wish I had left earlier because what. The. Fuck. I did not need that shit in my head. And I say this as a person who generally enjoys violent movies.

Once I learned it was a 'biopic' a lot of things made more sense. It's hard to make a movie about a real person without offending a lot of people if you include anything negative at all about them. The depiction of Kyle seemed so odd and opaque. Extremely one-dimensional. I'm not going to say unrealistic - there are definitely strong silent types who are unwilling to express themselves emotionally - but flat and kinda boring, frankly.
The film seemed to be trying to imply more emotional depth, but only indirectly. The conversation with the therapist at the VA where he totally denies having any issues. The conversation in the car about Mark's letter. But both of those setups were just left hanging. Kyle never seems to come to any kind of epiphany about his feelings. In fact I don't think he can be said to have had a traditional character arc (which by definition requires personal growth). And the fact that it's based on this story about a guy who was real and died makes all of those choices fall into place for me.

Things the movie did well:
Bradley Cooper bulking up and looking and sounding like a soldier. Did he take steroids? His face seemed puffy the way baseball players who suddenly improve their stats do....
Subtly implying the effects of PTSD.
Conveying the disconnect between the war and civilian life which absolutely reflects what I saw at that time.
Portraying the Iraqis as people with families and full lives.
Combat scenes were well choreographed, no shaky cam.
Black guy didn't die.

Stuff I hated: everything else.

I felt like I needed to take a shower after I came out of the theater. I can't believe I didn't hear how much violence against small children their was in this movie before attending. And I LIKE violent movies. I'm just not interested in seeing a young child tortured to death with a power drill in front of his family. That's really unacceptable.

One female speaking role. Her character totally one dimensional and unlikeable. Their relationship based on..... Nothing?

Worst baby props I've ever seen.

Total lack of personal growth in main character is baffling. Maybe realistic.

Main character is quite the Mary Sue with the door busting and the never getting in trouble for it. He seems to transform from a rowdy fist fighter to a totally disciplined soldier instantly.

Glorification of war in a way I don't often object to. Demonization of the enemy despite depiction of family life.

Mustafa the sniper - the decision to decisively show him defeated was a weird choice and it's what tips the movie to morally suspect in my mind. Shoehorning this personal revenge story into a narrative purporting to show the horrors of war totally undercuts that message.

In sum, the movie made me want to throw up, I hated it, and I wish I hadn't seen it. I think it is morally suspect. It's very well made.

Clint Eastwood was drafted into the Army during the Korean War. He served as a lifeguard and swimming instructor. This made me feel weird about him making this kind of movie.
posted by bq at 7:35 AM on January 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


From There are No War Heroes: A Veteran's Review of American Sniper

...it's far more important to me and other veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that our fellow citizens sit down and witness the emotional reality of war, that we as a nation honestly confront our ongoing actions overseas. This awareness is urgently needed, much more so than any selfish personal desire for entertainment or enlightenment. If this film inspires conversations about cultural imperialism—and how simplistic and reductive philosophy, combined with exposure to violence and moral injury, can twist and distort a decent human being—so be it. Everyone should see this movie. But you shouldn't necessarily believe it
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:51 AM on January 23, 2015


I will never see this movie. Not because I suspect I would hate it, but because it has inspired some of the dumbest, grossest water cooler and Facebook conversation in many years. I really don't want to know how much everyone around me enjoys war, cruelty and death.

Thank god for Tom Brady coming along to change the subject to his soft, soft balls.

it's far more important to me and other veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that our fellow citizens sit down and witness the emotional reality of war, that we as a nation honestly confront our ongoing actions overseas.

This is not happening. Literally everyone is watching this movie, going home, and saying "See? I was right!"
posted by selfnoise at 7:53 AM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


My little brother (Army) suggests that Korengal and Restrepo are much more realistic, useful, and thought provoking depictions of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and veterans, and also much better pieces of filmmaking.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:56 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Literally everyone is watching this movie, going home, and saying "See? I was right!"

I actually saw the movie, and didn't do this. So not quite literally everyone.
posted by dogwalker at 9:14 AM on January 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mustafa the sniper - the decision to decisively show him defeated was a weird choice and it's what tips the movie to morally suspect in my mind. Shoehorning this personal revenge story into a narrative purporting to show the horrors of war totally undercuts that message.

And Mustafa the sniper isn't even real! Depending on who you ask, the character is either a composite of a number of enemy snipers or a propaganda figure/morale-boosting legend created by one of the groups the U.S. fought in Iraq.
posted by kewb at 9:34 AM on January 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes. Literally.
posted by phearlez at 9:37 AM on January 23, 2015


I wish I was administered an electric shock whenever I did that.
posted by selfnoise at 9:42 AM on January 23, 2015


I haven't seen it yet, and the post Oscar nom-bump seemed to have brought it to the forefront in terms of both box office and popular attention.

I might see it in a about a week, but wanted to ask this before the thread quiets down:

How does American Sniper compare to fictional/not-so-fictional accounts of the war like Hurt Locker and Generation Kill? Is it polarizing like the way Zero Dark Thirty was, cause it sounds even less nuanced than ZDT.
posted by FJT at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2015


I found it very similar in a lot of ways to The Hurt Locker, but it's definitely less nuanced than that one (I'm not as familiar with ZDT). American Sniper has better action sequences, but that's just because Hurt Locker wasn't really too invested in traditional battle scenes per se. I don't remember Generation Kill all that well, but it that one didn't pop into my mind while watching this.

Fake baby aside (which I didn't notice when I saw it in the theatre), this is pretty quality filmmaking on the technical side. My biggest problem was the text of the date near the end, which obviously telegraphs some really bad news is coming. If people are looking for their jingoistic and soldier glorifying kicks, they'll definitely find them. But it wasn't forced on me so hard that it's the only reasonable reading of the material, just like it's possible to watch Wolf of Wall Street and come out of it thinking that drugs are awesome and hey let's go raid some good folks' savings account (admittedly not the common interpretation).
posted by dogwalker at 10:39 AM on January 23, 2015


However well it does at the awards shows and the box office, it's not going to be remembered simply as "a good film" or "a bad film," but rather as a film of its particular political moment.

It's not even limited to how will be remembered in the future, this is an apt description of the discussion around the movie right now, as it plays in theatres.
posted by dogwalker at 10:50 AM on January 23, 2015


Taking the story as an allegory of war rather than a word-for-word true story helped out a bit, but it was still a very hard movie to watch.

For me, so very many of the scenes that at first glance are glorifying war and masculinity, actually reveal just how horrible our culture's notions of men and war twist people into knots and leave them emotionally broken.

Kyle was told as a child that the only worth you can have as a man is to be a protector and to that end, any thing was justified in the pursuit of that protection. As a young man, with no wife or kids to protect, he wanders lost, chasing some cowboy shit that isn't real.

Once he can transfer that justification from family protection to entire country protection, he finds his place. The men around him who pursue the same path buy into the idea that violence under the guise of protection doesn't hurt you and are shocked over and over again at how it makes them feel. His brother is over the war. His fellow SEALS are exhausted and broken men by the time they take out the Big Bad, or get taken out. The soldiers he "helps" are shattered men both physically and emotionally and desperately need something, anything to replace that protector identity once it's gone.

To me, Kyle's repeated tours read less as endless stop-gaps taking him away from his family but more as his emotionally stunted way of dealing with a loss of identity.

As a soldier, he is right, just, and true. His violence and, really, his talent for killing are justified and he is not a wolf, but a sheepdog. In the world, without the mantle of soldier, he's a feral dog one step away from the wolf.

The entire story, to me, just highlights how we dress violence and the military up in pretty ideas to make it palatable. Then just abandon them to their demons. The changes in yourself you have to make to kill and survive war are pretty hard to undo and it takes a lot of time and support to come back from that. Rather than being angry at the soldiers that stay forever broken, I found myself more and more surprised that anyone ever fully returns.
posted by teleri025 at 3:12 PM on January 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


From There are No War Heroes: A Veteran's Review of American Sniper

Another review: American Sniper feeds America's hero complex, and it isn't the truth about war
posted by homunculus at 9:05 PM on January 23, 2015


it has inspired some of the dumbest, grossest water cooler and Facebook conversation in many years. I really don't want to know how much everyone around me enjoys war, cruelty and death.

This movie seems to have become a catalyst for bringing out a lot of people's uglier sides, especially the fans who get really nasty when people criticize the film.
posted by homunculus at 9:48 PM on January 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


That last Guardian link is really good, thanks for sharing.
posted by dogwalker at 2:36 AM on January 24, 2015


Teleri025, I would have loved to see that movie. I don't think I did.
posted by bq at 7:49 AM on January 24, 2015


But it also avoids presenting him as a self-aggrandizing bullshitter, the kind of guy who proudly claimed he'd shot dozens of looters in post-Katrina New Orleans or that he efficiently gunned down two would-be carjackers and then was allowed to leave the scene without incident or further investigation after the police made a phone call to the Pentagon or something like that.

Yeah, Kyle was an obvious fantasist and liar, and probably a fucking pyschopath because he actually appears to have thought his lies made him look good, instead of like a loose cannon serial killer.

This movie should never have happened.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:54 PM on January 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Restrepo was a veryy good movie, ChuraChura, like you mention above. I don't think it *captured everything* - but nothing could really, and within its narrowish scope I found it very interesting.
posted by smoke at 5:06 PM on January 25, 2015






I liked the movie. I waited a long time to see it; the initial buzz turned me off - I was afraid it would glorify war and be fodder for those that supported any/all US military action.

Instead I found it showing the story of someone who was slowly being destroyed, whose PTSD was something that was being denied, but present nonetheless.

Yeah, it was certainly ugly to see children killed onscreen, but war is filled with those moments, and depictions of war should show that ugliness.

I don't think it really vilified the villain; it showed him as a soldier doing his job as well.

The pacing certainly wasn't a normal one.

I don't blame Clint for omitting the lies and fabrications of the main character; it wasn't pertinent to the story he was trying to tell, and he was trying to be respectful guy's family and specifically children (he omitted the scene depicting the guys death at the request of the family).

It's not a perfect movie, but it's well acted, and well directed. And it seems that different people can take different things from the movie; which shows some nuance.
posted by el io at 10:25 PM on February 14, 2016


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